Though dark notes of surrealism certainly ring throughout her work, Alexandra Manukyan paints graceful characters with a lightness that evokes the portraits of the Renaissance. When one approaches, however, the realism of her highly-varnished oil paintings breaks down, revealing expressive, emotional brushstrokes. Manukyan has a background in the fashion industry, and it comes across though the elaborate accoutrements with which she adorns her figures. Heavy metal girdles, flouncy tutus and other theatrical costuming adds to the performative, melodramatic quality of her subjects’ gestures.
Manukyan’s upcoming solo show, “Beautiful Disaster” at CHG Circa in Culver City, subtly challenges beauty norms to apprehend deeper emotional issues. Though certainly attractive, her characters expose their scars and physical disabilities. One defiant, tattooed woman confrontationally gazes at the viewer in the titular painting Beautiful Disaster, revealing a prosthetic arm that Manukyan describes as the physical manifestation of an emotional trauma. “The subjects of my paintings refuse to fall into victimhood or self-loathing,” she elaborated in her artist statement. “Instead, the women who often preoccupy my paintings figuratively and literally wear their wounds with resounding pride and empowerment.”
“Beautiful Disaster” opens March 15 at CHG Circa and will be on view through April 12.